A year after Kanye West found himself in hot water over controversial comments regarding the 13th Amendment, the rapper is addressing the topic in his new songs. On Friday, October 25, the musician finally released his latest album, Jesus Is King. Though the music seems to primarily focus on faith, politics find their way onto a few songs. In both “On God” and “Hands On,” listeners can find references to the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery.
“And all my brothers locked up on the yard / You can still be anything you wanna be / Went from one in four to one in three / 13th amendment, gotta end it, that’s on me,” Kanye, 42, raps on “On God.” In the later track, “Hands On,” he sings, “Cut out all the lights, He the light / Got pulled over, see the brights / What you doin’ on the street at night? / Wonder if they’re gonna read your rights / 13th Amendment, three strikes / Made a left when I should’ve made a right.”
In September 2018, the conservative rapper stirred up controversy when he tweeted about the amendment. On the social media site, he shared a photo of himself wearing a Make America Great Again hat, captioning the shot, “This represents good and America becoming whole again. We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love.” In a separate tweet, he continued, “The 13th Amendment is slavery in disguise, meaning it never ended. We are the solution that heals.”
Considering the fact that the 13th Amendment outlawed both slavery and involuntary servitude — and Kanye had previously called slavery a “choice” in May 2018 — the comments didn’t go over so well. As it turns out, though, the rapper later revealed he may have simply misspoken. Though the constitutional amendment he referenced made slavery illegal, it did include an exception that involuntary servitude could be used “as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” That means that, when prisoners are serving time behind bars, they can be forced to work against their will.
“Abolish was the wrong language,” Ye later clarified in an interview. “I misspoke by saying abolish. Amend is the right language.” And that seems to be backed up by his new lyrics. On “On God,” he seems to suggest that fewer of his “brothers” would be “locked up in the yard” if they couldn’t be forced to work. In “Hands On,” he sings about law enforcement — and the law in general — mistreating people. In the past, Kanye may not have been too careful with his words. But it seems this time around, he made exactly the point he wanted to.
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